UNISON slams NHS England over secretive sale of £1bn NHS contract

UNISON has slammed NHS England’s decision to keep secret the final list of private companies bidding for a £1bn NHS contract.

Despite agreements to share information with stakeholders*, staff and UNISON, NHS England has confirmed today that following legal advice they would not release the list of companies bidding for Primary Care Services, a contract worth £1bn of taxpayers money.

Companies that attended a bidders day include Lockheed Martin, Capita, KPMG and US law firm DLA Piper as well as G4S and SERCO, companies that are currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. Earlier this week, the Public Accounts Committee expressed concerns that the Government departments are still awarding contracts to G4S and SERCO.

The contract, which is likely to be awarded early next year, is one of the biggest ever put out to tender by the NHS. UNISON has already warned that this is ‘simply a process of privatisation’ as the contract excludes NHS bodies.

UNISON is very concerned that NHS England has decided not to release the list of bidders. In a strongly worded letter to the head of the programme Nick Bradley, NHS England lead for UNISON said:

“It is disappointing and disrespectful to staff we represent in Primary Care service that we are not able to submit any views at the stage where NHS England is considering its short list.

“It does appear that NHS England are moving much too fast and without due respect to staff and stakeholders to move forward without both taking time and seeking views.

“I do not understand why it is not possible for both the trade union and the staff to be told which companies have submitted applications.

“To hide this information adds to our serious concerns about a process in which a massive arms manufacturer and a company linked to a sitting member of parliament in the government have both expressed an interest by attending a bidder day earlier this year.

“The action today only adds to the arguments of those who feel that stakeholders and patients’ views are irrelevant.”

Nick Bradley added: “The secrecy around this contract is extraordinary. This is a dangerous experiment and it beggars belief that NHS England would award such a huge contract to a private company. Everything about the contract is wrong from its nature, secrecy and the rushed timescale.

“By the end of the week, NHS England will have selected three companies without considering any views.”

“The public and staff will see straight through this.”

The deadline for applications closed on Thursday 11 December at 5pm.